One is tempted to write a bitter and biased account of the 'Unitarian Peace' Anarchist Conference and justify one's position as regarding the split. However such a limited view of political history will not serve anarchists, syndicalists, libertarian socialists and people (the ones whose cause we are all championing because, after all, we are the people).
The origins of the rifts between the multi-faceted anarchist tendencies and the primarily industrially inclined syndicalist movements have been highly complex and unique.
To some observers they have been seen as contradictory, to others as complementary. The Australian anarcho-syndicalist movement has contained most of the diverse tendencies. Examples of the movements which are specifically anarchist in form are, for example, on one extreme, the Sydney "Individualists" (as they were dubbed at the F.A.A. Congress) who advocate a mixture of Max Stirner's 'Egoist' philosophy, free expression based on Reichian sexuality, and essentially formless structures. Their oppostion to any compromise with notions of leadership, representation, authority, institutions, property or abstract notions of 'rights' was seen by many comrades as a personal attack; other comrades merely viewed their position as an unviable, self contradictory and inherently 'nihilist' attitude. Other comrades supported them.
Other anarchists groupings which could be mentioned, are anarcho-feminist groups who reject "male politics" and who see social relationships as being based on a patriarchal exploitative system. The structures, attitudes and activities of anarcho-feminists naturally differs widely, but there is a near complete agreement on their attitude towards male involvement in anarcho-feminist activities. A manifestation of this was the exclusion of males from the 1975 Anarcho-Feminist Conference. This caused resentment by (mainly) males, and was a point of contention in the "Unitarian Peace" Conference as it was in the first F.A.A. Conference.
A significant development about the "Unitarian Peace" Conference was that only individual feminists participated in the Conference. Also, many of those who did attend voiced their disgust of power politics of men. Some of the major anarchist groups - the university groups, also differed widely in their political approach from each other. This was shown by the individual student members of different universities' reaction to the walkout (Monash and some Latrobe people staying; the Macquarie person and some Latrobe people leaving). Resentment was shown by a Monash Anarchist when the revolutionary significance of students or anarchists on "the dole" was belittled by a syndicalist worker. Then the notion of defining "work" became the issue capitalised on to split the Conference between those who pressed for the priority of industrial action over and above any other form of revolutionary action, and those who rejected the notion for its limitations. Thus it was the economic role of anarchists which became the scene of some of the bitterest debate of the Conference.
Now turning to the syndicalist group (or "libertarian socialists" as the ex-trotskyists pressed for). Most of the workers (ie employees) at the Conference saw the necessity of forming a structured, cohesive group centred around "LINK" - type industrial activity. Their view was that the Conference was getting nowhere - that too much time had been wasted regarding the structure of the Conference and that not enough consideration had been given to shop-floor politics.
After the walk-out (which incidentally, was not debated-thereby exemplifying the conflict, mistrust and complete underestimation of people) proposals such as the setting up of a secretariat, the closing down of the Anarchist Conference (ie a lock-out), the deliberate exclusion of Anarchist-individualists for proposed "libertarian" socialist conferences in the future, and secession from the F.A.A. were discussed.
After holding a meeting lasting about an hour, the "libertarian" socialist tendency returned to the "Peace Church". A meeting was held and the presence of a chairperson partly offset the continued development of bitterness and rancour. However there were still sporadic violent interruptions, incidents of near-hysterical emotionalism, and personal abuse. We personally concluded that, most divisive issues of large meetings in future should be effectively chaired by comrades elected hourly - as this was a major factor in contributing to the build up of tension and impatience.
The sides were presented. The Anarchists were almost unanimous in requesting that the fait-accompli of a "libertarian" socialist (or "syndicalist") group remain federated within the F.A.A., and the Anarchists resented that no discussion had occurred about the split prior to the walkout. To this one of the "ex-Trotskyists" replied 'We don't want to have the Libertarian Socialists under the umbrella of the F.A.A.". The Anarchists also asked the custodian of the hall (a Libertarian Socialist) if we could continue the Conference until its scheduled end. This was denied ... the property disputes - a feature of the whole conference - and a symptom Of the divorce, had occurred. A sign that as far as the "leaders" of the walkout were concerned, the split was final.
Some members of both tendencies were gentler and more concilliatory, realising that future co-operation between the groups was not out of the question. People from both sides looked panicky and worried - which is not surprising considering the number of close friendships which were broken ... It was asked to those who walked out to raise their hands - over forty comrades raised their hands. It was then put to them, "how many would continue with the Conference?" three put up their hands. - We concluded that it is, at least, a separation. The anarchists' last plea was that they also were syndicalists - this met with hostility.
We believe that there are two ways of looking at the Libertarian Socialist Federation. One, that it is a trotskyist push - we maintain that some of the active provocateurs of the split were in SYA less than twelve months ago. (We don't expect anyone to overcome authoritarian conditioning in such a time). Two, that it has a genuine anarcho-syndicalist basis - and it may operate on genuine syndicalist lines. The ex-trot push held, or rather "railroaded" the "Unitarian Peace" Conference without consulting any other Victorian group as to the agenda. No pre-conference was held - and responsibility for the venue was vested in the hands of one person (on the Libertarian Socialist editorial board). It is true that his reaction to close the church was childish, prompted by the behaviour of some anonymous people who painted a slogan on the Church wall. We are not saying that provocation for the split was from one side. In fact, some of the individualists were not prepared to compromise their position on structure and everyone heckled speakers. We suggest that anarchists not participate in the Libertarian Socialist Federation until we have concrete assurances that it is a genuine SYNDICALIST organisation. We accept a structure but not a secretariat which will ultimately mean "democratic centralism".
To conclude, we wish the Syndicalist Movement in Australia every success and hope that we foster mutual respect between the people in the two federations.
And please, comrades, please never make it so that we need to ask again, "Which side are you on?"
FAAB, Monash Edition, 1976